Like many other communities in 2009, Effingham County was feeling the effects of the recession.
Even so, Greg Brunson saw many of his neighbors continuing to support local businesses.
“There were many families that were really struggling and still spending their hard-earned dollars here in Effingham County,” said Brunson, pastor of Church of the Harvest in Rincon.
In addition, he saw local churches having events for their congregations to enjoy, and Effingham businesses thanking the community with customer appreciation days.
Then he got the idea, why not bring all of that together into one big community event? And make it all free of charge?
So was born the “We Are One” Effingham County Appreciation Day, now in its fourth year. On Oct. 13, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., the grounds of Church of the Harvest will be filled with entertainers, vendors, special guests and kids’ activities.
“We turn this place into a celebration zone,” Brunson said.
The entertainment will include dancers, dramatic performances and a fashionable addition this year — models displaying clothing and accessories from several department stores. A variety of musicians will perform throughout the day, headlined by local recording artist Kimberly Gunn.
“We have a wealth of talent here in Effingham County,” Brunson said.
Along with free food and drinks for all ages, kids can enjoy rides, bounce houses and visits with Ronald McDonald, Spider-Man, SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer.
Dozens of local businesses, non-profit organizations and community agencies will man booths to share information on their products or services. Unlike other festivals where vendors are required to pay a fee, the booth space— like everything else at “We Are One” — is free of charge.
“The participants really love the idea of businesses that they patronize giving back. It allows them to make selective choices on how they want to spend their money, based on who gives back to the community,” Brunson said.
In turn, he said, “We Are One” is beneficial to local businesses, particularly small ones, because they can show the community what they offer. Brunson claimed some local businesses had “record-setting” sales the day after last year’s festival.
“One business said that they realized after this event that they needed to expand their business,” he said.
Although Church of the Harvest is the host, it will not be the only church represented. Any church in the community is invited to be part of the celebration.
“Everyone has their preference of what church they like to attend, so we like the churches to come and set up booths and tell a little bit about their ministry,” Brunson said.
The festival is free, thanks largely to sponsors Effingham Health System, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Burger King and Medicap Pharmacy. In addition, Brunson thanked the many local businesses that made donations.
“The list would be too long to print,” he said.
For more information about the “We Are One” festival, call Brunson at 429-3005.